Written by Dotty Winters


Childish things

Is the pace of modern life getting you down? Perhaps it’s time to revive some stress-free childhood pastimes, says Dotty Winters.

Jar of homemade perfume

Illustration by Claire Jones.

This week my Twitter timeline has been full of adults brandishing colouring books. Apparently, revisiting this nostalgic activity is relaxing and therapeutic. A new partwork magazine also dwells on the de-stressing qualities of this traditionally childish pastime. This upswing in colouring-in for grown-ups has made me ponder what other childhood diversions we should rediscover. Here are my suggestions, based on my own, rural childhood.

Peeling PVA glue off stuff

I don’t think there are any sensations more satisfying than peeling dried PVA glue off things (sorry, Mr Winters). At school I’d paint my entire desk in the stuff, just for the joy of picking it off. I also distinctly remember coating my arms in it and waiting for it to dry. I’ve tried that since and can confirm that my arms were less hairy when I was at school. Also, hypothetically, if you were to try this as a 36-year-old, and a hypothetical doorbell were to ring, you might find yourself coated in PVA and hypothetical dog hair and Cheerios. Perhaps.

Itching powder

The fine hairs found inside rose hips can be used to make itching powder. Many a happy childhood hour was spent collecting these, mashing them up and scattering the produce in frenemies’ and siblings’ PE kits. Sleepovers could be enlivened by waiting until a weaker member of the herd nipped out for a wee before filling their sleeping bag with crushed berries. We used rocks to crush the rose hips but I imagine modern day children use a Nutribullet. Sod ‘em.

Collecting ladybirds

Before there were Tamagotchi or Top Trumps there was collecting ladybirds in a matchbox. The aim of the game was simple: collect the largest variety of ladybirds in a matchbox without killing any. Four-spot ladybirds were particularly common where I lived (the insect equivalent of a Michael Owen Panini sticker). Ladybirds could be traded, depending on how emotionally attached you were to them. No one wanted to keep a five-spotter, because someone in Year Six’s sister’s cousin collected one once and it ATE ALL THE OTHER LADYBIRDS. Hello lifelong terror of five-spotter ladybirds.

Making perfume

Making perfume was a Grandma-instigated activity that involved collecting fallen rose petals and other garden debris, adding them to water and pouring the resulting substance into bottles. These bottles were then left to “stew” for a few days, before being decorated with ribbon and gifted to my apparently delighted mother. If you’ve ever been given a gift-wrapped bottle of stagnant garden sludge you’ll know that ‘delight’ is a stretch, so well done, Mum. Also, I now realise that “Go into the garden and make perfume” was the 1980s equivalent of “Please watch Peppa Pig and give me some peace.”

Putting things in people’s hoods

All the detail is there in the title. You simply place items in people’s hoods as they walk past. No one knows why this is fun, especially as it’s pretty rare that you’re actually there to see the results of your dastardly endeavours. Nevertheless, as 10-year-olds the mild peril and joyful silliness of it all would leave us in fits of giggles for hours. Depending on how brave/imaginative you feel you can do this to people you know, or total strangers. My village was unusually well served for jumble sales, so we maintained a steady supply of things to put in hoods. Favourites included:

• Spoons
• Old socks
• Forged love notes
• Other hoods (if you’re able to carefully position a small detachable hood inside another, larger, hood – e.g. during a lengthy church service – you too can witness the temporary panic of a person who briefly believes that their head has outgrown their coat).

If the pace of modern life is getting you down, do give these a try. I’ll be writing them all up to create an illustrated partwork. Free binder with Part One.


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.